Typically, when conversations and writings about sex come up in conjunction with Yoga, the Sutras mentioning Brahmacharya are mentioned, as well as Tantra. I’m going to break it down for you professionally, and then share my own experience of it personally.
Yogic philosophy believes that by utilizing the practice of Brahmacharya (celibacy or abstinence) a vigor, strength, or personal vitality is obtained. This is overly simplified, because Brahmacharya itself is a multi-layered concept. It means continence, purity, or walking in awareness of the divine or highest reality.
The wonderful thing about Yoga is that it is like Buddhism in that it’s a practice, rather than a set of religious beliefs or edicts. Religion is all fine and good, but I’d rather be more practice-oriented than religion-oriented when it comes to sex.
So, step one: be mindful and curious of how often, with whom, and why you are having sex or masturbating.
Why? Because Tantra, ya’ll.
In simplified terms, there is Hindu/Buddhist Tantra and Neo-Tantra (Western, sex-oriented).
For the sake of brevity, I’ll say that I am speaking from the perspective of my interpretation of the definition put forth by Teun Goudriann, Hindu and Tantra scholar: (Tantra is)
“a systematic quest for salvation or spiritual excellence” by realizing and fostering the divine within one’s own body, one that is simultaneous union of the masculine-feminine and spirit-matter and has the ultimate goal of realizing the “primal blissful state of non-duality”.
So Neo-Tantra essentially takes this concept and shoehorns it into the arena of sexual intercourse and practices. This is where we get modern Tantric sex practices, Orgasmic Meditation, mindful sex, slow sex, et. al. I mean, if you’re into experiencing the “primal blissful state of non-duality” in sex, I’d say give Tantric sex a try!
For me, the practice of Brahmacharya is a means to an end in terms of cultivating and preserving sexual energy for a higher purpose, in addition to fun and/or procreation (either of a human sort or a creative sort). At least, that’s the intention.
Like, we only have a finite amount of energy in each day, physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. And we must be discerning about how, why, and when we expend that energy to make the most of our lives.
My personal practice lies in softening into the raw messiness of life and allowing myself to be more flexible than is comfortable for me, sometimes. So, my relationship with sex is always evolving, depending on what my aims are at that point in my life.
For example, in the past I’ve had an agreement with partners to have sex on a schedule because our lives were so busy we literally could not make it happen on the fly, but it was important that we got that regular connection in. Also, we’d weave in a regular Orgasmic Meditation practice both as a quickie sex solution and as a way to get a mindfulness practice in, while connecting.
Now, I can’t even imagine being that rigid and methodical about sexual connection. I’m all about it being a bit more organic and natural and riding the tides of ebb and flow, these days.
And then there’s the part where having sex with someone can enact a seismic exchange of energy, in addition to body fluids. You bond with the people you fuck, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. And in a sense, you open yourself up to the possibility of sharing a deeper connection with them, their lives, their feelings, their thoughts, their pain, their personal growth, etc. And the more often you fuck people, the more possibilities open to vulnerability, bonding, and merging.
As a yoga therapist, teacher, and practitioner and someone who has a giant stick up their ass about integrity, I am very intentional about why I have sex, with whom, how, and how often.
The times in my life when I’ve gone against the grain of this dogma have been painful for me, as I identify as a deeply sexual being. I’m not saying sex is not great for its own sake, because it absolutely is! But something for me is lost when the why is buried in purely physical release or animalistic desire.
For me, the treasures are found in deep connection, intimacy, patience, curiosity, exploration, and ultimately a sense of mutual worship in each other. I enjoy sex more, and it fulfills me more deeply this way.
Some may not be so precious about sex and sexual play, and that’s valid too! I have so many beautiful friends and acquaintances who conceptualize sex and sexual play in much more flexible ways. And that works for them, and it’s even a great and healthy choice for who they are.
But I have bought into the mindfulness and yoga identity wholeheartedly, so that’s my personal angle, for what it’s worth.